Petty “Won’t Back Down”

7 Oct
                                                                                                                              Photo: Sam Jones

Suits, stoners, soccer moms, hippie chicks, bikers, bros, hipsters and party girls – the eclectic range of fans at Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Oct. 2 Irvine concert proved that the group’s music has yet to “back down.”

Concert-goers young and old filled almost every seat and patch of grass at the Verizon Amphitheater to be a part of the classic band’s “Mojo Tour,” aptly named after their first album release in eight years. A digital copy of Mojo was included with every online ticket purchase, which allowed fans to brush up on the new tunes before the concert began.

Judging by the influx of attendees well after 8 p.m. and the massive tailgating party in the parking lot, hardly anyone took the 7:30 p.m. start time seriously. As a result, opener ZZ Top played their last show of the tour to a much smaller crowd than the concert’s headliners.

Texas blues-rock legend, ZZ Top, played hit songs, like “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Legs” and “La Grange,” ending their 65 minute set with 1975’s “Tush,” as the fashionably late found their seats.

After intermission, excited fans grew restless. Suddenly, the stage lit up and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers started playing “Listen to Her Heart.” The entire crowd seemed to jump to their feet at once, belting out the lyrics along with frontman Petty, while the air appeared to immediately fill with the smoke of, um, some funny smelling cigarettes.

The group formed in 1976 after Petty was in several other bands that didn’t last. Currently, the Heartbreakers are comprised of guitarist Mike Campell, keyboardist Benmont Tench, bassist Ron Blair, guitarist/keyboardist/harmonica player Scott Thurston and drummer Steve Ferrone.

The soulful band who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 has had a multitude of hit singles off their 12 studio albums. They continue to show that their popularity isn’t faltering, which was proven by the packed amphitheater and sold out shows across their 2010 tour.

What makes a Tom Petty concert a Tom Petty concert, is the communal feeling audience members experience.  The night started with groups of meandering fans making their way to their seats, but by the end of the show, the crowd swayed and sang in unison, sharing, er, cigarettes.

Saturday’s attendees were treated to a rendition of the band’s most well-known songs. The lineup included “I Won’t Back Down,” “Free Fallin’,” “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” “Breakdown,” “Learning to Fly” and “Refugee.” The encore included “Running Down a Dream” and “American Girl.”

While the crowd sang their heart’s out during these songs, the moment the Heartbreakers began playing songs off their latest album, listeners flocked to the restrooms and concession stands – typical for any band whose hits are decades old.

Petty, who turns 60-years-old this month, showed the crowd he’s still got it after 34 years with the Heartbreakers. His distinct nasally yet melodic voice hasn’t changed a bit, and the aging rockers proved that you’re only as old as you feel.

The lyrics from “I Won’t Back Down” appear to have become the group’s anthem as they show fans they’re here to stay: “No I’ll stand my ground / Won’t be turned around / And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down / Gonna stand my ground.”

Originally published at The Daily Titan

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